With his script “Don’t Dress For Dinner“, playwright Marc Camoletti serves up just the right combination of credible misunderstanding and madcap mayhem, such that his cast of characters never know what the heck is happening around them – yet the audience can enjoy the pleasure and laughter reserved for those who are in on the joke. The current Blue Canoe production playing at the Domino Theatre, however, loses something in its presentation.
The play incorporates all of the best elements of a farce – mistaken identities, subterfuge gone wrong, unintended consequences, countless near misses and a touch of slapstick. Most importantly, though, the plot of “Don’t Dress For Dinner” unfolds in such a way that the audience is able to see and appreciate the development of the confusion, as opposed to being subject to it themselves. Not only, then, are we able to enjoy the humour in any given moment for what it is, in and of itself, but there is also the added delight of watching this train wreck take shape as this collection of self-indulgent degenerates reap exactly what they sow.
With only four performances over three days, I couldn’t help but feel that everything about this production was influenced by a sense of rush. It permeates throughout – Devon Dafoe’s set design is efficient, but the end product could have used some more dressing, as well as more bracing. The costumes, designed by Morgan Anderson, are functionally adequate, but lack any real flare. The same can be said of the lighting (Kiersten Forkes), which is flat, and the sound, which lacks precision. On opening night, even the intermission seemed abbreviated.
The much bigger issue, though, is the speed at which this cast performs. Director Kyle Holleran’s company play their parts as though they are participating in a race, with only the finish line in sight. “Pick up the pace” is probably the note most given by a director of this genre of play, and letting things drag is always a risk. It is dangerous, however, to mistake speed for energy. The problem here is two-fold. Not only do the actors lose the ability to truly flesh out their respective characters and their interactions with one another, but the audience also has a very difficult time keeping up with the different twists and turns that the playwright has so cleverly constructed. It is desirable to have the different characters unaware of what’s truly going on, but not the audience. Furthermore, much of the dialogue was delivered so quickly that the young cast all too frequently found themselves stumbling over their lines.
The one performance of note that stood out as an exception was that of Sara Chiodo in the role of Jacqueline. Her portrayal brought credibility to a woman in incredible circumstances, and displayed a more patient maturity then the rest. Chiodo offered a grounding presence when on stage, as well as a greater degree of connectivity with her fellow actors. She is particularly adept at maintaining the frantic spirit of the piece, without sacrificing clear communication.
Whether it is a matter of unbridled youthful exuberance, inexperience, a constricted schedule, or any combination thereof, this staging of “Don’t Dress For Dinner” will certainly provide a few laughs as the misfortunes of these miscreants unfold, but in the end, will likely leave you somewhat dissatisfied and hungry for more. (2/5 Stars)
“Don’t Dress For Dinner”, by Marc Camoletti, is a Blue Canoe production, directed by Kyle Holleran, featuring Brent Clifford Gorrie, Sara Chiodo, Matthew Hunt, Kristy Titanic, Rose Ly, and Hunter Agnew. The play runs at the Domino Theatre, from March 13th to 15th with an 7:30 pm curtain, with some matinee performances…Tickets available at the Grand Theatre Box Office, online or by calling 613-530-2050…Remaining available tickets can be purchased at the door…